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Francesco Castellano

Freelance Market Research Analyst

ItalyToptal Member Since December 20, 2016

Francesco has more than fifteen years of experience in research, finance, consulting, and business management. During this time, he has worked on 20+ projects as a consultant at Bain & Company and launched Uber operations in Turin, Italy. Lately, he has founded Tondo, an organization focusing on the circular economy, and Novu, a company scaling-up innovation, and intrapreneurship. Francesco is passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship.

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Josh Chapman

Freelance Market Research Analyst

United StatesToptal Member Since August 25, 2016

Josh is an investment banker turned VC who lives in Denver, CO. At Morgan Stanley, he covered the world's top hedge funds and sold over $5 billion in IPOs for companies like Alibaba, LendingClub, GrubHub, and more. He also has experience in M&A, startup fundraising, and as a founder. Currently, Josh is one of the managing partners of Konvoy Ventures, a VC firm focused on esports and video gaming.

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Alex Graham, CFA

Freelance Market Research Analyst

United KingdomToptal Member Since December 17, 2016

Alex is a London-based CFA charterholder who has had a global career. He enjoys freelancing to keep abreast of industry trends and to reinforce his experience from venture capital, consulting and bond/currency trading. With a technical skill set and an engaging communicative touch, he is proficient in valuations and market analysis. His breadth of work has ranged from projects with the Bank of England to helping a jewelry entrepreneur fundraise.

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Jimmy Stone

Freelance Market Research Analyst

United StatesToptal Member Since December 30, 2018

Jimmy's executed and evaluated more than $1 billion in debt, equity, and M&A transactions at an investment bank (JP Morgan), private equity firm (Warwick Group) and as a consultant. He's advised businesses ranging from pre-revenue startups to $1+ billion public companies in a broad range of industries. Jimmy holds an MBA with honors from Wharton, and he joined Toptal to help clients create tangible value while learning about new business models.

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Pala Kuppusamy

Freelance Market Research Analyst

United StatesToptal Member Since March 20, 2018

Pala is an award-winning entrepreneur who has founded three tech companies, growing one to 250+ and leading another to an exit that generated a 16x return. He serves in three boards for startup and growth-stage eCommerce, market research, and analytics companies. Expertise in business strategy, plans, financial models, forecasting, marketing and customer analytics, pitch decks, product and pricing strategies.

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Surya Krishnan

Freelance Market Research Analyst

United StatesToptal Member Since March 8, 2017

With 13 years of finance, strategy and deal experience, Surya most recently spearheaded the finance function for the US Digital businesses at Asia TV. He led corporate development, executing M&A transactions, and drove strategic planning—at the Fortune 100 firm Ingram Micro and MGA Entertainment. He performed $25+ billion of valuation advisory work at PwC. Freelancing allows him to provide critical analysis and guidance to corporate executives.

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Gregory Thompson

Freelance Market Research Analyst

United StatesToptal Member Since January 8, 2017

Greg led the corporate development team at a technology company, completing many acquisitions and divestitures and growing revenue 400% to over $800 million. He has worked as a principal and a consultant for both large public companies (such as FICO and Oracle) and smaller venture-backed businesses specializing in the technology and FinTech sectors. He joined Toptal to leverage his experiences in finance, M&A, strategy and business development.

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Anthea Kavanagh

Freelance Market Research Analyst

GermanyToptal Member Since February 10, 2017

Anthea has over 13 years of experience as a financial strategy consultant. She focuses on developing and leading projects to improve company effectiveness. Her work includes problem diagnosis, financial modeling, developing presentations, presenting on findings and advice, and leading process improvement projects—with a significant emphasis on stakeholder engagement and change management. Anthea works across industries and company maturities.

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Charles Strout

Freelance Market Research Analyst

United StatesToptal Member Since January 9, 2017

A chartered financial analyst and Columbia/London Business School MBA, Charlie founded a consulting firm specializing in providing strategic and financial analysis. He also currently leads strategic initiatives at FreeWheel Media. Recently, Charlie’s work has included conducting equity research and valuing non-traditional data sets. He joined Toptal to help clients to leverage financial and strategic analysis to improve business results.

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Ellen Su

Freelance Market Research Analyst

United StatesToptal Member Since September 15, 2016

Ellen specializes in answering her clients' complex financial and analytical questions with innovative techniques. She is excited to bring to Toptal clients a vast set of tools to employ on analytical projects. Her unique talent is a seamless combination of data sourcing, programming, financial analysis, storyboarding, and visualization.

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Jeffrey Fidelman

Freelance Market Research Analyst

United StatesToptal Member Since September 29, 2016

Jeffrey has been a trusted advisor for several years, focused on working with entrepreneurs and helping them build and grow their business, often from the ground up. He's successfully helped entrepreneurs raise more than $1 billion. His ability to work across a wide variety of industries is the result of a diverse investment background. Freelancing enables him to work directly with leadership in order to achieve efficient and positive results.

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A Hiring Guide

Guide to Hiring a Great Market Research Analyst

High-quality market research is a necessary tool to help startups find the right product/market fit and to help larger companies maintain it. This guide provides a breakdown of the key skills and attributes you'll want to see in a market research analyst.

Market Research Hiring Resources

More Resources to Hire Market Research Analysts

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Budder, Inc.

Erik has been an extremely valuable member of our team who has tremendous breath of experience with start ups in our lifecycle phase. What makes his contribution unique and highly effective is not only his excellent financial modeling skills and knowledge, but also the emotional intelligence with which he manages each relationship at Vault, understands our team dynamics, and helps us tackle start up challenges effectively. It is rare to find a part-time consultant who makes you feel like he/she is genuinely invested in the success of your company.

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Toptal has been an incredible key partner for Sidekick. As an early-stage start-up, we’ve leveraged both design and financial talent. The experience has been incredible, with those professionals bringing creativity, expertise, and advice to ensure Sidekick succeeds. My Toptal financial expert helped steer Sidekick’s business model, which resulted in an initial ROI of 650x! My experience with Toptal has given me great confidence in the future.

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Chris was great to work with and was always available on my schedule. His communication skills and personality were a 10/10. His outputs on the project were top notch and allowed us to develop more efficient forecasting and initiative prioritization frameworks. I would definitely use Chris again.

Chris Pozek, CEO

Veterans Rideshare

What really sets Toptal apart is the caliber of finance talent available in their network. I had a very specific and pressing need, and Toptal quickly matched me with the perfect person for the job. The expert produced a thoughtful and robust financial analysis that has ultimately allowed us to forecast and prioritize initiatives much more efficiently.

Chris Pozek, CEO

Veterans Rideshare

Scott had a lot of finance experience which he used to ask the right questions and help us do things more quickly than we would have done without him. The commission model is crucial to us being able to scale, he integrated seamlessly with our finance team and efficiently got us the outputs we needed.

Naushad Parpia, Founder and CEO

GSD

I was very impressed with the quality of finance talent in Toptal’s network. Our expert's experience was immediately evident through his insightful questions and the speed at which we could move. Toptal stayed on top of the process from making the match through to the successful completion of the project. I've already recommended Toptal Finance to my network.

Naushad Parpia, Founder and CEO

GSD

Hire Market Research Analysts Seamlessly with Toptal

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Talk to One of Our Industry Experts

A Toptal director of finance will work you to understand your goals, technical needs, and team dynamics.
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Work With Hand-Selected Talent

Within days, we'll introduce you to the right market research analyst for your project. Average time to match is under 24 hours.
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The Right Fit, Guaranteed

Work with your new market research analyst for a trial period (pay only if satisfied), ensuring they're the right fit before starting the engagement.

FAQs

  • How are Toptal Market Research Analysts different?

    At Toptal, we thoroughly screen our Market Research Analysts to ensure we only match you with talent of the highest caliber. Of the more than 100,000 people who apply to join the Toptal network each year, fewer than 3% make the cut. You'll work with finance experts (never generalized recruiters or HR reps) to understand your goals, technical needs, and team dynamics. The end result: expert vetted talent from our network, custom matched to fit your business needs.

  • How fast can I hire Market Research Analysts through Toptal?

    Depending on availability and how fast you can progress, you could start working with a Market Research Analyst within 48 hours of signing up.

  • What is the no-risk trial period for Market Research Analysts?

    We make sure that each engagement between you and your market research analyst begins with a trial period of up to two weeks. This means that you have time to confirm the engagement will be successful. If you're completely satisfied with the results, we'll bill you for the time and continue the engagement for as long as you'd like. If you're not completely satisfied, you won't be billed. From there, we can either part ways, or we can provide you with another expert who may be a better fit and with whom we will begin a second, no-risk trial.

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How to Hire a Great Market Research Analyst

“Product/Market Fit Myths: Myth #1: Product market fit is always a discrete, big bang event; Myth #2: It’s patently obvious when you have product/market fit; Myth #3: Once you achieve product/market fit, you can’t lose it; and Myth #4: Once you have product/market fit, you don’t have to sweat the competition.”
– Ben Horowitz

Companies find product/market fit (PMF) when a product creates value that directly meets an unaddressed customer need. You know it when you see it—demand rapidly outpaces supply, and a $0 word-of-mouth campaign quickly becomes the only acquisition channel necessary. This is the holy grail for entrepreneurs and the primary obstacle standing between a capable management team and explosive growth. Of course, finding PMF isn’t easy, and it isn’t a one-time occurrence. Once found, it’s a constant process of adaptation that relies on extensive knowledge of the market and a keen eye on the competition.

Most companies conduct some market research, albeit informally; for example, by conducting customer satisfaction calls, or by checking out prices that competitors charge for similar products and services. Formalizing the market research process is essential to staying focused on target customers (i.e., keeping the business’ ideal buyer type up to date), discovering underserved customer needs, and staying ahead of competitors.

Finding a top market research analyst is no easy task. The ability to assess market research skills comes with experience in the field. This guide is aimed at helping you source such talent effectively.

A graphic representation of the major elements of market research

Why Hire a Market Research Expert?

Below are some of the most common reasons for retaining a market research expert.

Understand your business’ place in the market and relation to your competitors.

Even a short-term engagement with a market research expert can yield valuable insights if you’re seeking to better understand your customer base, your competitors, and the market segmentation of spaces that you operate in.

The below is an exercise to uncover the key market research questions that will provide the greatest insight about your business in the shortest amount of time.

Q: A company engages you for a two-week assessment of their business relative to its competitors in the market. What types of questions would you be able to answer in this time frame that would have the greatest impact on the business’ bottom line?

Over the course of a short engagement, and depending on the resources available, a market research analyst should focus on the following questions:

  • Who are your customers and what’s the best way of reaching them? A skilled market researcher may build out customer profiles, assess prospective business locations or distribution channels, and propose marketing strategies
  • Which products and services do buyers need or want?
  • What factors influence the buying decisions of your customers? Between factors such as price, convenience, and branding, among others, which factors carry the most weight? Which factors don’t matter as much?
  • What prices should you set for your products and services, based on competitor pricing?
  • Who are your business’ competitors? How do they operate, and what are their strengths and weaknesses?

If you believe your expert will need to conduct primary research, make sure to take the time required for customer outreach into account. Primary research can include surveys, focus groups, interviewing customers, and field trials or experiments. Secondary research, where experts leverage existing sources to derive insights on the market, is much more common, and more predictable from a timing point of view. Secondary research sources include economic forecasts, census data, and even Twitter.

Research a new market to inform your go-to-market strategy.

Market research experts can provide enormous value when a company is exploring new markets and products. A small cost now can save millions in R&D, marketing, and sales costs down the line if a new product is approved when the product/market fit isn’t there yet. To test a candidate’s ability to research a market for a new product, present them with a question such as the following:

Q: A company is exploring the development of a new line of products to complement their traditional product lines. You are tasked with conducting research that will ultimately be used to inform product development and the go-to-market strategy. How would you structure your research efforts to deliver the most important information needed to make this decision?

An expert market researcher will start with identifying the core competencies of this retail business, find an unfair advantage that exists, and explore new markets based off of that information. A research framework might look like the following:

Understand the company’s current market.

  1. What is the market the company currently operates in?
  2. What’s going on in the market? What are the industry trends?
    • Here, the expert may leverage data sources such as Pitchbook, CB Insights, or annual reports.
  3. Who are the other players?
    • Here, the expert may leverage personal knowledge of competitors from experience or, again, utilize secondary data sources.
    • Platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter can provide useful qualitative information about competitors. Trends such as growth in followers or frequency of posting can shed light into the state of their current fortunes.

Identify the company’s competitive advantage.

  1. What is this company good at? What products do they have that are doing well?
  2. What unique resources and advantages does the company have?

Build a market map to hone in on major market opportunities.

  1. What does the market map look like (a visual depiction of all verticals in the industry, with competitors divvied up by competitive strength)?
  2. Are there any gaps or opportunities for expansion within the market?
  3. How can the company’s competitive advantages serve these gaps?

Once opportunities are identified, test out the hypothesis of those opportunities—is there demand for the product?

  1. At this stage, the market research analyst may shift to primary research. They will directly ask select customers their thoughts on new products and services.
  2. An expert market researcher will be careful to avoid any confirmation bias at this stage. An external freelancer is especially helpful here as they are not incentivized to push survey participants in one direction.

Understand how your customers think.

When conducting primary research, businesses must be conscious of their customers’ time. As important as this information is to help the business make informed decisions, maintaining healthy customer relationships must also be a priority for purposes of retention and as a general best practice. Prior to reaching out to customers, an expert market research analyst will know exactly the questions that need asking and know the best approach for doing so.

Q: After a company has been losing market share to competitors for two quarters, it wants to investigate how a recent run of bad press has impacted its brand image. What approaches could you take to find out the impact?

This type of information could be gathered through primary research techniques including customer interviews and surveys of customers. In this case, surveys are likely one of the best techniques for assessing a shift in public opinion. There are a number of approaches to conducting surveys, each with specific pros and cons:

Through direct mail (i.e., hand out at the place of business or mail out with survey returned in person or via mail)

  • Pros: Cost-effective; highly scalable
  • Cons: Questionable effectiveness; follow-up reminders necessary

Over the telephone

  • Pros: Cost-effective
  • Cons: Can be difficult to reach participants, little appetite in the public for telephone interruptions; not as scalable

On the web or via email

  • Pros: Allows participants to complete the survey on their own time with little effort, cost-effective; extremely scalable
  • Cons: Low response rate

In person (e.g., personal interviews or focus groups)

  • Pros: Can introduce follow-up questions or change the focus of the survey on the spot. Within a “mystery shopper” context, this can allow for more candid and honest assessments
  • Cons: Can be difficult to recruit participants, expensive

Skills to Look Out For

Soft Skills

Equally as important as these hard skills, a market research analyst must be a clear communicator, capable of synthesizing the takeaways of their research into an easily digestible report and focusing your attention on what matters. For the purposes of conducting primary research, a market research expert should be comfortable talking to every person touching the organization from executives to suppliers.

Hard Skills

A skilled market research analyst will have proficiency in the entire MS Office suite (Excel, Word, PowerPoint) and statistical analysis programs. As an added bonus, a market research analyst may have proficiency in programing skills like SQL, R, and Python to really dig into the data. Sources in hand, a market research analyst will analyze the data using techniques such as a conjoint analysis, maximum difference scaling, and multivariate analysis.

Ensuring a Successful Engagement

Once you have found the ideal candidate, make sure to spend the time to adequately onboard the expert to increase the chances of a positive experience and a successful engagement.

Here are a few suggestions about how to make this transition go smoothly:

1. Establish realistic expectations.

Rather than ask the expert to explore every possible market that your company could enter in the next five years, limit the breadth of the question by market types (e.g., only markets related to the business’ current core operations) and time horizon (the next twelve months). Or, make a very ambitious ask, but understand that the analysis will necessarily be higher-level. You should understand an expert’s core areas of expertise to make sure they’re a fit for what type of analysis you have in mind. If you decide to hire through Toptal, the interview phase is a good time to determine this.

2. Ensure the market research expert has access and resources.

Make it clear to those within your organization that they should support the work of the market research expert to the best of their ability, where it makes sense. The expert may ask for sit-downs with your company’s decision-makers to understand core business challenges, or request a customer database in order to send out a survey. These client-facing activities should be done in coordination with your company’s sales or account management teams to avoid miscommunications.

3. Determine milestones right off the bat.

An expert market research analyst should provide you a roadmap for the first few weeks of the assignment. If they don’t, just ask! A clear roadmap helps ensure you start off with similar expectations about deliverables, expected results, and timing.

Conclusion

“Market matters most.”
– Marc Andreessen

Successful companies use information, not intuition, to drive their major business decisions. Expert market research helps mitigate risk in business decisions by enabling executives to more fully understand how customers perceive their products and services, and how customers compare their business to a competitor’s. Market research can play a part in forecasting inventory shifts and pricing changes as well as exploring new products and markets, all of which translate directly to the bottom line.

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